Aloha Friday Message – March 3, 2017 – First Friday of Lent 2017

1709AFC030417 – Up Popped the Devil

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Matthew 4:1 1 Then Jesus was led up by the Spirit into the wilderness to be tempted by the devil.

¡Que la bendición esté siempre con ustedes y que Dios los bendiga, Amados! (May blessing always be with you and may God bless you, Belovéd!) Good morning and welcome to the first Friday of Lent. I don’t know yet if there will be a Lenten series this year. I’m going to leave that up to the Lord and we will just wait and see what he has in mind. My heart tells me it would be presumptuous to rely on my own designs for what will come out in the Aloha Friday Messages this season. That is why, I believe, this is the topic I received for today. For those who say, “I don’t believe in the Devil,” I hope you will begin to reconsider that position.

Let’s begin with that entity we call The Devil, or Satan. We first hear of Satan in 1 Chronicles 21:1 – he “stood up against Israel, and incited David to count the people of Israel.” He is first referred to as the devil in the New Testament. The terms are roughly equivalent. Satan is a devil and a devil, like Satan, is one who “stands against” – opposes, accuses, contends – against us, the earthlings. Satan, also referred to by his angelic name Lucifer, the “Angel of Light,” is that angel which rebelled against God by desiring to be “greater-than-or-equal-to” God. When he was cast out of heaven (See Isaiah 14:12-15), he took many of his followers with him. He is the prosecutor who charges us with sin and attempts to bend us to his will by twisting the truth; he is a liar. Satan looks like this in Hebrew: שָּׂטָן‎‎ (Satan) {saw-tawn’}, meaning “enemy” or “adversary,” who is always opposed to God’s will, constantly plotting against God and all of humanity. In the Greek version of the Old Testament, he is referred to as διάβολος diabolos {dee-ab’-ol-os}, a slanderer who throws misrepresentation of Truth into our path. He is the Prince of Demons, the Old Serpent, Old Scratch, and Prince of the Air. He gained Adam’s right to God’s Garden when Adam gave the Serpent a higher level of trust than he gave God.  Satan’s minions (which are not at all like the cute little yellow creatures so popular these days) are called Fallen Angels – δαιμόνιον (daimonion) {dahee-mon’-ee-on} – evil spirits who are the messengers and ministers of the devil. They serve him by plaguing us with lies and more lies attempting to get us to trust ourselves rather than God; in short, they try to get us to commit their sin of opposing God in all things. Jesus saw Satan fall and I sincerely believe he was expecting him to show up when he went into the desert to fast and pray. That is shown in the first phrase of today’s topic verse: Then Jesus was led up by the Spirit into the wilderness.

Jesus submitted to God first, last, and always in all things – even death. Just before this episode of Jesus’ life, he was baptized by John and God declared (See Matthew 3:16-17) “This is my Son, the Beloved, with whom I am well pleased.” Now he is led into the desert by The Spirit of God and the first thing Satan says is, “IF you are the Son of God…” As he did in Eden, Satan is saying, “Use your own power to take care of yourself. You can do it! You’ve got the power.” I am reminded of Zechariah 4:6 He said to me, “This is the word of the Lord to Zerubbabel: Not by might, nor by power, but by my spirit, says the Lord of hosts. Just as Jesus was tempted to pull a little DIY stunt in the desert to take the edge off his hunger, we are often tempted to go it alone and “get’r done” rather than wait upon the Lord. There’s quite a contrast here.

Adam had everything he needed in a beautiful garden. Jesus had nothing he needed in a desert. Adam brought us condemnation. Jesus brought us justification. Through Adam came Death. Through Christ came eternal Life. Adam, like all other humans, chose to give in to temptation. Jesus, unlike all other humans, chose to resist temptation. Which is true? Jesus was not able to sin or Jesus was able not to sin. It doesn’t matter. What does matter is that he chose not to sin, not through divine intervention, but by human will. Jesus was tempted in all things by which we are tempted, yet without sin (See Hebrews 4:15) Why would Jesus do this without Divine Intervention? After all, he is God, right? God his Father is watching him, and the Spirit of God led him into the desert; why not prove he is God and get the devil out of his space? Take a look at this familiar passage: Philippians 2:5-8 Let the same mind be in you that was in Christ Jesus, who, though he was in the form of God, did not regard equality with God as something to be exploited, but emptied himself, taking the form of a slave, being born in human likeness. And being found in human form, he humbled himself and became obedient to the point of death – even death on a cross. Jesus had plenty of human history to consider when going up against this tempter. Here’s just one example – Sarah and Abraham.

Remember Deuteronomy 6:16? 16 Do not put the Lord your God to the test, as you tested him at Massah. Yet we so often try to hurry-up God. Recall Sarah who was vain enough to believe she could fulfill God’s promise to Abraham to become a great nation by “giving him a child” through her servant, Hagar. Although she believed she was motivated by love for her husband, and that the child born of her handmaid would fulfill God’s promise to Abraham, instead she gave way to temptation and ended up helping bring into the world a man who was “a wild ass of a man, with his hand against everyone, and everyone’s hand against him; and he shall live at odds with all his kin.” (See Genesis 16:12) We can’t be bigger-and-better than God by choosing to do things on our own and following human precepts and indulging human needs. That is what Satan uses to try to tempt us away from FROG – Fully Relying On God. Here’s one example from Jesus temptation in the desert.

ChristTemptaationGod said, “This is my Belovéd Son in whom I am well pleased.” Satan leads with “IF you are the Son of God, turn these stones into bread.” Satan tells us as well, “Don’t just stand there! Do something!” This is the same lie he told Eve: “Don’t wait for God to make life better. You can do it yourself.” In this Gospel passage, Satan quotes – or rather misquotes – Scripture. We often hear of folks who decide to “test their faith” by testing God. How do we test God? By taking risks with sinful things we know will hurt us – everything from addictions to misplaced piety. Our holiness does not come from within us – it comes from God and returns to God when we choose to be righteous.

Jesus used that perspective during his ministry when his self-righteous opponents questioned his Gospel. He said to them, in John 8:4444 You are from your father the devil, and you choose to do your father’s desires. He was a murderer from the beginning and does not stand in the truth, because there is no truth in him. When he lies, he speaks according to his own nature, for he is a liar and the father of lies. Jesus knew Satan is a liar. We know that too, but he still catches us in his lies, right? Why!? We owe him no allegiance. He has no power over us unless we give it to him. Why do we do that? And how do we stop doing that?

We follow his lies because we are human, and we often – not always – choose to accept and believe the lie rather than The Truth. How can we stop that? Well, how did Jesus stop Satan’s lies? He relied on Scripture. As we saw above, Satan misquotes Scripture and tricks us into believing he’s actually got it right. We call that “just enough truth to make it seem OK.”  Some of these may sound familiar:

* Everyone else is doing it. * Society’s changed now. * It’s OK to just try it. What have you got to lose? * It’s only a little bit. I can handle it. * S/he won’t ever know what I’ve been up to. * They’ll never miss it. * I’m a very spiritual person and my god can hear me anywhere. * I can’t put my faith in a God who would do that. * God – if he’s really God – will eventually forgive everyone. * I identify as _____. You have to let me be that. * You can’t miss the #1 Comedy in America (or the playoffs, or the awards, etc.), so skip church. * Use this one weird trick to … * Just one more, and then I’ll quit. * They can’t talk to me that way! I’ll show them! * Inside we are all gods. * I don’t need no stinking religion! * If I just had money like he does, I’d be set. * Bible? Who cares? It’s all fairy-tales anyway. * Devil? There’s no such thing.

Lies; these are all lies. And the biggest one of all is that there is no devil. We can know he exists because he and his demons are always waging war against us.

One “convenient” way to explain why the devil shows up so often is that we created him. Does that sound familiar? Allegedly penned by Voltaire: “In the beginning God created man in His own image, and man has been trying to repay the favor ever since.” There is 20th century scholar named Elaine Pagels who wrote a book called The Origin of Satan (1995) in which she claims that the concept of Satan originated in ancient times to describe an oppositional character and then, during the early Christian era, was expanded to give Christians a definable enemy so they could distinguish themselves from others. Closer to the truth is this observation: As the ages roll by, we learn more and more about God, his creation, and his plan. In the same way, we learn more and more about Satan and how he seeks to disrupt God’s plan. We understand his lies better, including the lie that we created him.

Don’t fall for the lies or the liar. David learned the hard way the devil is real. Job dealt with the devil’s interference by remaining humble and trusting God. Jesus knew the devil in a very human way, and yet chose to resist him. You cannot resist what is not real. Heaven is real. Hell is real. God is real. Jesus is real. Satan is real. Our struggle against him is real. To resist, we must put on the whole armor of God (See Ephesians 6:11-18) because our struggle is not against enemies of blood and flesh but against the rulers, against the authorities, against the cosmic powers of this present darkness, against the spiritual forces of evil in the heavenly places. This war is waged in our flesh, but is won in the Spirit. Choose the Spirit of Life over the Spirit of Darkness. Both are real, but only one is Truth.

Next time the devil pops up, whack him a good one!

Unless otherwise indicated, all scripture passages are from the New Revised Standard Version Catholic Edition (NRSVCE) New Revised Standard Version Bible: Catholic Edition, copyright © 1989, 1993 the Division of Christian Education of the National Council of the Churches of Christ in the United States of America. Used by permission. All rights reserved.

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Aloha Friday Messages by Charles O. Todd, III is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-ShareAlike 3.0 Unported License

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About Chick Todd

American Roman Catholic reared as a "Baptiterian" in Denver Colorado.

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